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Picture by Nayrouz Ali, Jordan News

Rasem Badran: Architectural interpretations of heritage and culture

7th June 2021

AMMAN — When it comes to the Jordanian architectural scene, Rasem Badran is considered one of the most influential and respected architects in Jordan, the Middle East, and across the world. 

Born in Jerusalem in 1945 into a family with an artistic environment, his father, Jamal Badran, was one of Haifa City’s early fine artists and sculptors. Rasem Badran studied in the nearby town of Ramallah, and later in West Germany, where he received his BA in Architecture in 1970 from Technische Universität Darmstadt. He then worked in Germany for two years. Shortly after that, in 1973, Badran moved to Jordan, where he has been practising ever since. 

Moving to and practicing in Jordan marked the launch of Badran’s career and opened doors for him, with nonstop commissions in the 1970s. Recognition from established architects in the Arab world including Iraqi Rifat Chadirji soon followed. 

The project that launched the architect’s career in the Middle East was the Baghdad Grand Mosque competition, which he won in 1982. Soon after, Badran’s landmark projects popped up in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The name Badran was then coupled with contemporary Islamic architecture and he was even credited as its inventor.

A number of Badran’s notable projects managed to grab the attention of the world, such as The Grand Mosque of Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, 1985; Madinat al Fahaheel in Kuwait, 2002-2003; Abu Dhabi Court House Complex, in the UAE, 2006; and Al-Bujairi Development, 2006-2015 Al-Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. 

In 1979, he established Dar Al Omran for architecture and engineering. In 1995, he received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the Great Mosque of Riyadh and the Redevelopment of the Old City Centre. By the year 2002, Badran received his honorary doctorate from Jordan University of Science and Technology. Additionally, in 2008, he established Badran Design Studio.

Badran usually assumes responsibility for projects that had more social depth, rather than just buildings to live in. He built structures for people, communities, and even the history of each location. He once said, “I tried to create homelands for everyone. That was my dream.” This can be seen as a direct result of growing up in Palestine and witnessing the enduring conflict over land, culture, and identity. 

Badran’s approach is dependent on the site, context, place, history, and story from which he draws inspiration. The architect is well-known for his deft use of both new and old materials. Incorporating those elements with the site’s visual and cultural heritage results in Badran’s famed respectful yet inventive approach to modernism.

According to Badran, “Architecture is the mirror of the society,” as it is an expression of people’s culture, traditions, needs, and beliefs. 

Badran’s career is decorated with awards such as the 2019 Tamayouz Excellence Award, The Nile Award 2019: “Most Creative Arab Personality”, Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) Award 2018, the Abdullatif Al Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture 2017, the Al-Hussein Order for Distinguished Contribution of the First Degree 2007, the Arab Architect Award 2001, Palestine Award for Architecture 1997, the Aga Khan Award for Islamic Architecture 1995, and the Arab Architect Award 1990.

Badran’s work has been exhibited across the world, from Venice to Mumbai, Jerusalem to Stuttgart. He has also been a member of several juries for prestigious awards, including Tamayouz Excellence Award, the Hassib Sabbagh & Said Khoury Engineering Award, the iSustain Initiative, Artists in Concrete Awards, and many others.

Rasem Badran remains an architectural icon whom Jordan is proud to have, as well as a distinguished creator in Middle Eastern cities with his interpretation of people’s heritage and culture.

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